Exercise: Big Toe Expansive Circles
Most of us working Americans spend several hours seated at a desk or standing at a work station. Without realizing it, we can fall into habits of limited physical expression which little by little over the course of many years favor the development of 1) stiffness-inflammation-pain in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints (MTLJ), 2) decreased range of self-awareness, and 3) increased risk of injury . The Big Toe Expansive Circles exercise is a simple, effective addition to your current preventive wellness program with the following benefits that come from long-term consistent practice:
- decreases stiffness-inflammation-pain by keeping the lower limb (functional chain of hip-thigh-knee-lower leg-ankle-foot) MTLJ tissues awash in oxygen-rich blood at regular intervals during the day
- helps maintain strength and flexibility in the lower limb MTLJ tissues
- increases self-awareness, which allows problems to be detected and addressed while minor
- decreases risk of injury from falls
Method: while sitting with one leg outstretched, think that the tip of your big toe is like a pen (or pencil, or lemon yellow Cray Pas–why not). Then, let the mind think clearly to draw an expansive circle in the air with it. Enhance the mechanical practice by radiating goodwill from the heart center toward the areas being exercised. You’ll find a supplementary video at the end of the article.
Suggested dose: 4 circles each direction, each foot every 2 hours. In general, 1) the more frequently the exercise is done the less number of repetitions is needed and vice versa and 2) slower is better, since this will afford you more of an opportunity to get out of your head, connect with self, and develop body awareness.
Feeling: a gentle stretch around the ankle joint and in the lower leg muscles at each degree of movement; feel that the entire limb is involved in the movement so you get some expression in the knee and hip joints as well. Do not limit the exercise to just your foot and ankle. Avoid using excessive muscle contraction. Practice making the movement smooth and graceful.
Variations: 1) perform while standing with one leg outstretched. Let the hand/s be in contact with a wall, chair, table, etc. if need be. Taiji or yoga students, standing on one leg can be a nice challenge to your leg strength/stability. 2) perform while laying on your back with the circling foot up in the air at whatever degree is comfortable to you. The other limb can be outstretched on the floor or with knee bent and foot planted on the floor.
Caution: the intent of this exercise is to enhance and protect health in a generally non-problematic limb; use caution if you have a pre-existing injury in any part of the lower limb; if pain appears with consistent practice then discontinue and consult a qualified healthcare provider.
Success is seldom the sudden manifestation of a single big win out of the ether with little work necessary on our part (correctly guessing all six Powerball numbers); more frequently, it is the cumulative effect of many small scale good habits practiced consistently over long periods of time (late taiji master Ma Yueh Liang on 40 years of practice). The subject of today’s post falls in the latter category of practice.
You may not think this exercise applies if the body feels in good shape already. But I argue that now is precisely the best time to do it. The wealthy don’t worry about money when they’re broke–they do the work so broke people problems don’t affect them. Be about that preventive wellness lifestyle: recognize that it’s better to cultivate and protect health with skillful habits rather than treat sicknesses which arise out of neglect and unskillful habits.
Best to you in your quest for health! See you down the road, J*
“The best time to act is when there is nothing to do” –Chinese proverb.
Copyright (c) 2018, Justin Jaucian